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Steelers CB Patrick Peterson Says Kenny Pickett Will Be the Starter, Gives Caution to Potential FA Addition



Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett during a game against the Baltimore Ravens on Oct. 8, 2023. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Patrick Peterson isn’t even sure if he is going to be on the team in 2024, admitting on the latest episode of his All Things Covered Podcast with former Steelers cornerback Bryant McFadden that he’s not sure if the Steelers will want him back for his 14th NFL season.

But he is sure of one thing: Kenny Pickett will be the Steelers starting quarterback.

Despite Pickett losing his starting job to Mason Rudolph while injured down the stretch in 2023 and Rudolph leading the team to the postseason, the Steelers have given every indication this offseason that it will once again be Pickett’s job to lose this summer.

While talking about speculation about quarterbacks that the Steelers could add to the room this offseason — Pickett is currently the only quarterback on the team’s 90-man offseason roster — Peterson cautioned that no matter who comes in, they’re going to have to do so with the knowledge that Pickett will begin as the clear-cut No. 1.

“You have to understand if you are coming into this situation, that Kenny Pickett is the guy,” Peterson said.

The Steelers have likely based that decision on their desire to see Pickett play under an offensive coordinator other than Matt Canada. He got only one full game after Canada’s firing before his injury in 2023. Peterson sees an opportunity for Pickett to thrive in the run-based system of new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith.

“I think Kenny Pickett will have the opportunity to really reap the fruits of this labor, having Arthur coming in there, having kind of like the same athletic attributes, a mobile quarterback, a guy who likes to throw the ball on the run, who can throw the ball on the run,” Peterson said. “But also having a running back and a running committee that’s able to make his game a little bit easier. I’m excited about the hire.”

The hiring of Smith has led to a lot of speculation that the Steelers could go after Ryan Tannehill, the former Tennessee Titans quarterback that had his greatest career successes under Smith in Nashville.

RELATED: The Pros and Cons to Steelers Adding Ryan Tannehill

Peterson cautioned that Tannehill would have to be aware that he was coming in as the No. 2 and accept a role as a mentor, something that he notably did not do in his time with the Titans.

“I don’t think it’s my job to mentor him,” Tannehill said in 2022 after the Titans had drafted Malik Willis. 

He seemed to change his tune in 2023, when it became clear that he was being replaced by rookie Will Levis.

“It’s not a fun situation to be in, but I want to be a pro and handle it with class and still be a guy that he can look to,” Tannehill said. “So, not an ideal situation, but you know, I want to try to handle it well.”

So would he consider the Steelers, with his old coordinator Smith, but with Pickett as an already established starter, an ideal situation in free agency?

“I think it’d be great because he’s a guy who’s been in the system, who understands the system,” Peterson said. “But also, we’ve got to remember the comment that Ryan Tannehill made a couple years ago.”

Tannehill’s attitude toward being a potential backup to Pickett could be a major factor in whether or not he ends up with the Steelers.